When Thankfulness Is Hard

When Thankfulness Is Hard

Most often, I am truly thankful when I am not trying to be. There’s a sensation of gratitude overflowing in the soul when an unexpected blessing comes my way or when I happen to avoid an accident by some providential circumstance.

But when set occasions for thankfulness come around, such as the Eucharist or this holiday we call Thanksgiving, I find it difficult to replicate sincere gratitude which comes unexpectedly. Sure, I can always afford a few moments to say the prayer before devouring an inordinate amount of food on Thanksgiving. But deep down, I am painfully aware that this is not the same thankfulness that brings tears to my eyes after moments of crisis. It feels artificial, wrong even. Aware as I am of the fact that I am privileged beyond belief, there is no pain in my heart for those who are not. Tragically, I simply accept it as the reality and carry on, offering my lip service as though it is the best I have.

But this is not enough.

This is merely Cain’s offering, and we should strive to be like Abel, offering the best of ourselves to God. We are human beings endowed with spiritual faculties, not just lips. We were made for thanksgiving, as we are instructed in the holy Scriptures to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

As Christians, we ought to approach this American holiday not as an occasion to be proud of the relative prosperity we enjoy in this country but as a call to aspire to the state of humility, love, and thanksgiving which Christ intends for us to exist in perpetually.

So what do we do when we find ourselves stuck in this thanklessness? How can we get ourselves out? Perhaps what makes this state of thanklessness so frustrating is exactly the point: we cannot get ourselves out. There is no thanksgiving without love, and love is a gift. We do not “think” love into existence whenever we happen to have a need for it. In order to be thankful, we must accept the gift of love from Christ who is Love. If our hearts are closed to this gift, we will have nothing to offer God when we attempt to give thanks.

This realization highlights two important details about thanksgiving. The first is that thanksgiving is not merely gratitude for the opportunity to consume large quantities of material possessions. St. Basil the Great reminds us that our material excess does not belong to us at all:

The bread you are holding back belongs to the hungry; the coat you guard in your locked storage-boxes belongs to the naked; the shoes wasting away in your closet belong to those who have no shoes. The silver you hide in safekeeping belongs to the needy one.

Should we find ourselves in a state of material abundance, it is important that we understand God’s gift of love is revealed in part through His provision for our needs, and with excess comes the responsibility and the opportunity to participate fully in His gift of love through giving. Mercy is itself an active part of thanksgiving.

The second detail is that in contemplating Christ’s gift of love for us, we understand that like love, thanksgiving has both a subject and an object. Almost every religion values gratitude in some way. Even secular self-help literature tells us of the psychological benefits of practicing gratitude in meditation. This is not a bad thing per se, but I wonder: just who are we to be thankful to? We cannot be thankful for without someone to be thankful to. As Christians, we do not offer up our thanksgiving to some impersonal abstraction of causality, but to a person, Christ.

So let’s remember when we come to the table this Thanksgiving and bow our heads to pray: thanksgiving is not a mere obligation but a perpetual state of being to which we have been called, made possible by love of our Christ our God, who has brought us out of non-being into existence and provides for our needs so that we may continue to exist, always commending ourselves and our whole life to Him.


Hello! I’m Daniel Bishop, and I’m an Orthodox Christian and a contributing blogger for OCF. I study English at the University of Dallas, and I’m involved with youth and young adult ministries in my parish, my OCF chapter, and my local pan-Orthodox community. I enjoy studying classical languages and literature, playing music, traveling, rock climbing, and chanting. Feel free to contact me at dbishop@udallas.edu if you have any questions or comments.

Impactful Lines | The Akathist of Thanksgiving

Impactful Lines | The Akathist of Thanksgiving

The OCF theme of the 2017-2018 school year is “Glory to God for All Things.” This phrase comes from the Akathist of Thanksgiving. Filled with many petitions covering the innumerable things for which we give thanks to God, we asked each SLB member to select their favorite we share the favorite line from the Akathist. Below are their answers.

“Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe.” – Val

“Blessed are they that will share in the King’s Banquet: but already on earth Thou givest me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Thine own hand hast Thou held out to me Thy Body and Thy Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, and have tasted Thy love, so ineffable, so heavenly.” – Tasya

“Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.” – Caroline

“Glory to Thee for every happening. Every condition Thy providence has put me in.” – Quinn

“Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia!” – Spyri

“Glory to Thee, for what Thou hast hidden from us in Thy Wisdom.” – Anna

“Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.” – Michael

“Glory to Thee for the joy of living, moving and being able to return Thy love.” – David

“Glory to Thee for calling me into being.” – Amelia

“Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others.” – Nora

“Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life.” – Fev

“Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall” – Peter

“Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey.” – Rachel

“Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.” – Markayla

“Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen.” – Mark Saber

“Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour.” – Ben

“Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments.” – Mark Sultani

“Glory to thee for the depths of thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it.” – Nicole

Giving Tuesday | Little Raindrops

Giving Tuesday | Little Raindrops

Glory be to God, we are blessed. Even when there are ups and downs in life, God is always there guiding us. How awesome is He? Our Almighty and Loving God never leaves our side no matter how sinful we are.

We have so many blessings to offer up to God and thank Him: being able to get up in the morning, go to class, go to College Conference or Real Break. The list goes on and on.

For me, OCF is one of the greatest blessings I am grateful for. I recently transferred schools and realized what a blessing my home chapter was for me. I definitely took many things for granted, and I did not realize the impact OCF, locally and in our North American programs, had and continues to have, on me.

I challenge each of you to take a moment and be still. Ponder all the blessings in your life and give glory to God! God willing, OCF is one of them. If you have an OCF chapter, don’t take it for granted. Give each person a hug and tell them why you are grateful for them. Thank your priest(s). Our spiritual advisors take precious time to spend with us and are vital to the OCF ministry. So really, take the time to thank your priest and your chapter. Life changes in a blink of an eye, and the present is the perfect time to have an attitude of gratitude.

In honor of giving thanks, as OCF we have launched a #GivingTuesday campaign, starting on November 28th and ending on December 15th.

This campaign is superrrrr important because it’s not us asking our parishes or women’s groups to help the ministry of OCF. This time, it’s us students who have the opportunity to make the biggest difference.

This campaign is built for us students to show our love for our ministry of OCF and support all the wonderful programs that are put on for us (retreats & such)! I’m sure you’re grumbling to yourself, “ugh, they want money.”

Hear me out. We know the reality of being a college student. Little drops fill a bucket, right? You can make a donation of $10, which for me is eating in instead of going out in NYC. Instead of buying a large pizza for $20 invite your friends over and make your own pizza, and donate to OCF.  

You want to know something pretty amazing? A generous donor has offered to match every dollar raised before the concluding date! AND if you share this campaign and have people donate in your honor the two students with the most “nominations” will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship each. Yes folks, a scholarship!

With 7 days left (campaign ends December 15th), we are currently at $15,781: only $4,219 short of our $20,000 goal!

I know money is a touchy subject. Truthfully, I usually cringe when the Parish Council President asks for money at church. But, as Orthodox Christians true stewardship is giving our time, talents, and treasure.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. –2 Corinthians 9:6-7

So let’s begin now and give a little of our treasure to a ministry that works so hard for each of us. OCF is a ministry that has changed all of our lives in some way and will continue to do so as we graduate college and stay a part of Christ’s Living Body.

Share the word and let’s fill this OCF bucket each with our little drop!

DONATE HERE


Spyridoula Fotinis is a junior at the City College of New York where she is studying International Studies. She serves as the Public Relations Student Leader on the 2017-2018 Student Leadership Board.

2018 OCF Theme: Glory to God for All Things

2018 OCF Theme: Glory to God for All Things

11 times in the Morning Prayers; 12 in the Evening Prayers. 5 times in the Trisagion alone.

We throw the word ‘glory’–and it’s kin, glorious and glorified and glorify–around a lot in the Church. That’s not bad–but all too often, we become desensitized to it. I mean, think about how many times during one church service you say, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” It’s a big number, folks.

But what does it mean to give glory? So often we see it paired with worship, like in the Evening Prayers: “O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worship and glorified…” We see it so often at the conclusion of prayers: “…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

I think this leads us too easily to lumping ‘glory’ into that with which it’s paired. Worship is a more concrete concept than glory–I know what it looks like to worship something, I can picture it my head, so glorifying something probably looks just like that. God has the kingdom–yep, with God is the kingdom, is Heaven–He has the power–yup, God’s powerful–and He has the glory–well, that’s probably just another big impressive thing that God has.

Iconography Painting Transfiguration Of Christ

But glory has more layers than that. I mean, if someone were to ask you “What’s glory? I don’t know this word,” you wouldn’t be able to respond with “Well, it’s a big impressive thing that’s kinda like power and being worshiped.” Not unlike beauty or love, glory tends to be one of those aspects of God that is best understood when you see it, experience it. When you try to define it, you find that you actually know it intrinsically. Glory is essentially “Um, that.” points at glorious thing

Then how can we pray these words, at the beginning of the Trisagion: “Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee?” How can we answer the call of OCF this year, and glorify God in all things (#glorytogod), if we cannot easily construct for ourselves an image of glory, of glorifying?

We must recognize, I think, that our closest attempt to glorifying God is often our helpless outpouring of thanks to Him. The Akathist of Thanksgiving service, rife with glories, typifies this effort for us. Each Ikos has within it a serious of petitions meant to glorify God. From the first Ikos:

Glory to You, Who called me to life,

Glory to You, Who have shown me the beauty of the universe,

Glory to You, Who have opened before me the sky and the earth as an eternal book of wisdom,

Glory to the eternity of You, in the midst of the world of time,

Glory to You, for Your hidden and evident goodness,

Glory to You, for every sigh of my sadness,

Glory to You, for every step of my life, for every moment of joy,

Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.

It is a thanking of God, but a transcendent thanking; the capstone of all thanks that can be given. Consider the things for which God is glorified: giving the speaker life itself, moments of joy, sighs of sadness, the beauty of the universe, all goodness. Can proper thanks be given for these things? Likely not. So, glory is given.

God is glorious, magnificent, beautiful–there’s nothing in that realm of glory that we can give Him. We give God glory because we need to thank Him, to honor Him, as the pinnacle of deference and gratitude. And again, God doesn’t need that from us–He doesn’t need anything from us. It is for our sakes that we give glory to God.

If we did not, there would be no purpose to our lives, no meaning to our breaths. Our world, a product of happenstance and coincidence and cosmic mush, would act upon us, and through our misguided and feeble human attempts to interpret it, we would fall into damnation and hopelessness.

Glory to God, for communion with Him is the purpose of our very existence. Glory to God.